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FORT WORTH The Fort Worth Police Officers Association has fired the latest shot in a budget battle with city leaders.

The association used its Facebook page to highlight a disturbing trend: Thousands of crimes committed in the city over the last six months.

First, it was a talking sock puppet criticizing the Fort Worth City Council on the page. Now, the association is using what it claims are disturbing statistics showing more than 8,600 crimes reported so far this year.

The numbers are big, bold, and posted to send a message. It s the latest in a string of attention-getting messages sent out by the association.

Sgt. Steve Hall, president of the police labor group, said the idea is to win public opinion by listing crimes between January 1 and June 30.

"It is our opinion that right now it's not the time to cut the police department budget," Hall said. "We would like to see the police department fully staffed and fully budgeted."

The Fort Worth city manager estimates a $50 million shortfall when he presents his budget proposal in two weeks. The police association president fears 46 vacant positions could be cut.

"If we're carrying forward vacant positions that have been unfilled for seven to eight years, then we owe it to the public to look at those positions," said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.

Price said there are no current plans to lay off police officers. She told News 8 that in the last five years, city leaders have increased the police department's budget by $42 million a number disputed by a sock puppet who also made an appearance on the association's Facebook page.

In a video posted on the page, the puppet says, "The Fort Worth City Council has cut over $20 million from the police budget in the last four years."

Hall said he s not trying to be confrontational with with city leaders.

"I think that the public should be engaged and have an opportunity to weigh in on the budget package discussions that need to be made," Hall said.

The city manager will submit his proposed budget on August 13. City council members are expected to vote on it more than a month later, on September 17.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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